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Illustrator Special Effects #2: Digital World Map Background

digital world map

In this quick tip tutorial I’m going to show you how to create a quick and easy mosaic digital world map.
Using the shape tools, some gradients and the blend tool, you will be able to create nice looking vector backgrounds. Let’s get started!

1. Open up a new document and set the dimensions of the Artboard to 800 x 600px. Go to the Layers Panel and create our first layer titled ‘Background Layer’. First, pick the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tools Panel and create a rectangle with the same dimensions as the Artboard. Pick the color from the Color Panel and fill the resulting shape with radial gradients, starting from dark blue (R=8 G=33 B=43) to black (R=0 G=0 B=0), as shown on the image below.

digital world map

2. Create a new layer and name it ‘Blue Grid’. Grab the Line Segment Tool (\) and drag downward to create a vertical line along the left side of the Artboard. Change the stroke color to light grey (R=204 G=204 B=204) and set the Stroke Weight to 0.8pt. Duplicate the previous object and place it along the right side of the Artboard. Select both the lines, and go to Object > Blend > Make (Alt+Ctrl+B) to multiply the objects. To modify the settings, double-click on the Blend Tool (W) from the Tools Panel, in order to open the Blend Options. Select Specified Steps from the Spacing drop-down menu, type 30 and click OK.

digital world map

3. Keep the blend object selected, and go to Object > Expand in order to expand the object. Once a dialog box appears, check the Object box only and hit OK. Then, make a copy of the previous object and rotate it by 90&deg. To do this, hold down the Shift key to constrain the rotation to 45-degree increments. When you’re done, you should end up with something similar to the image below.

digital world map

4. Here’s the interesting part. Select all the lines we have created so far, and in the Transparency Panel change the Blending Mode to Color Dodge (Opacity 100%). Now we have a nice blue grid background. As we can see, the Color Dodge mode does not affect the black color in the underlying layers, but only colored objects with very dark shades of colors. To adjust the brightness and contrast on the background layer, change the shade of grey color of the upper object. Now make a copy of the rectangle from Step 1 and place it on top using the Bring to Front (Shift+Ctrl+]) command. Select both the grid and the rectangle and go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Ctrl+7) to mask out the parts that exceed the boundaries of the rectangle.

digital world map

5. Let’s illustrate a World Map made of tiny blue dots. First, create a new layer ‘Mosaic World Map’. Import a bitmap or vector image to use as the basis for the mosaic. You can search and download free ‘world map’ images. Here, I will use a vector-based map. Make sure you set the dimensions of the map to about 690 pixels by 280 pixels. Select the image and go to Object > Rasterize… to open a dialog box. In the Color Model drop-down menu choose RGB mode and set the Resolution to High (300ppi). Now check the Transparent box, set the Anti-aliasing option to None and hit OK.

digital world map

6. Then, go to Object > Create Object Mosaic and the dialog box will appear. We need to change only two values. First, in the ‘Number of Tiles’ section set the width to 70 and hit Use Ratio, in order to make the tiles square. Check Delete Raster in the ‘Options’ section and hit OK.

digital world map

7. Ungroup the mosaic. You should be able to select individual squares now. Our mosaic contains a lot of white squares we do not need. To select the objects with the same attributes, select any white piece of the mosaic, and choose Select > Same > Fill Color and then press the Delete key. Now go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Ellipse… and set the Weight and Height to 8px in the ‘Absolute’ section and confirm with OK. Pick the color from the Color Panel and fill the objects with light blue (R=41 G=171 B=226). Keep the objects selected, and go to Object > Expand appearance to expand the object. Place the mosaic world map on top of the grid background.

digital world map

8. The next step is to create the hot spots on the map, and connect them to each other. In a new layer ‘Business Hot Spots’ create a perfect circle using the Ellipse Tool (L). Set the dimensions of the object to about 60 x 60px and fill the resulting shape with radial gradients as shown below: light grey (R=179 G=179 B=179), black (R=0 G=0 B=0) and white (R=242 G=242 B=242). Open up the Transparency Panel and change the Blending Mode to Color Dodge (Opacity 100%). Make several copies and resize the objects. Now arrange the objects all over the map (refer to the image).

digital world map

9. To connect the hot spots, grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw several paths across the map as shown below. Select all the paths, and choose the ‘Width Profile 1’ from the Stroke Panel, in order to get narrow ends. In the Stroke Panel set the Stroke Weight to 2pt. The stroke color should be set to pure white (R=255 G=255 B=255).

digital world map

10. Pick the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tools Panel and create several circles in different sizes (hold Shift to constrain the proportions). Once done, place the circles in the middle of the grid intersection points as indicated below. Open up the Gradient Panel and fill the resulting shapes with the following radial gradients: white (R=230 G=230 B=230) and black (R=0 G=0 B=0) to complete the background. That’s it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial.

digital world map

View the list of all 101 Illustrator special effects tricks at 101 Illustrator Special Effects.
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About The Author: Nikola Adzic

Hi, I'm a digital artist and designer and I really enjoy creating photorealistic artworks. Most of the time I'm just observing how objects behave in the 'real' world and it's really challenging to create it in a vector-based software, such as Illustrator.

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